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1.  The Synechocystis PCC6803 MerA-Like Enzyme Operates in the Reduction of Both Mercury and Uranium under the Control of the Glutaredoxin 1 Enzyme 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(18):4138-4145.
In a continuing effort to analyze the selectivity/redundancy of the three glutaredoxin (Grx) enzymes of the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC6803, we have characterized an enzyme system that plays a crucial role in protection against two toxic metal pollutants, mercury and uranium. The present data show that Grx1 (Slr1562 in CyanoBase) selectively interacts with the presumptive mercuric reductase protein (Slr1849). This MerA enzyme plays a crucial role in cell defense against both mercuric and uranyl ions, in catalyzing their NADPH-driven reduction. Like MerA, Grx1 operates in cell protection against both mercury and uranium. The Grx1-MerA interaction requires cysteine 86 (C86) of Grx1 and C78 of MerA, which is critical for its reductase activity. MerA can be inhibited by glutathionylation and subsequently reactivated by Grx1, likely through deglutathionylation. The two Grx1 residues C31, which belongs to the redox active site (CX2C), and C86, which operates in MerA interactions, are both required for reactivation of MerA. These novel findings emphasize the role of glutaredoxins in tolerance to metal stress as well as the evolutionary conservation of the glutathionylation process, so far described mostly for eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC3754753  PMID: 23852862
2.  Engineering Synechocystis PCC6803 for Hydrogen Production: Influence on the Tolerance to Oxidative and Sugar Stresses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89372.
In the prospect of engineering cyanobacteria for the biological photoproduction of hydrogen, we have studied the hydrogen production machine in the model unicellular strain Synechocystis PCC6803 through gene deletion, and overexpression (constitutive or controlled by the growth temperature). We demonstrate that the hydrogenase-encoding hoxEFUYH operon is dispensable to standard photoautotrophic growth in absence of stress, and it operates in cell defense against oxidative (H2O2) and sugar (glucose and glycerol) stresses. Furthermore, we showed that the simultaneous over-production of the proteins HoxEFUYH and HypABCDE (assembly of hydrogenase), combined to an increase in nickel availability, led to an approximately 20-fold increase in the level of active hydrogenase. These novel results and mutants have major implications for those interested in hydrogenase, hydrogen production and redox metabolism, and their connections with environmental conditions.
PMCID: PMC3933540  PMID: 24586727
3.  The AbrB2 Autorepressor, Expressed from an Atypical Promoter, Represses the Hydrogenase Operon To Regulate Hydrogen Production in Synechocystis Strain PCC6803 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(19):5423-5433.
We have thoroughly investigated the abrB2 gene (sll0822) encoding an AbrB-like regulator in the wild-type strain of the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis strain PCC6803. We report that abrB2 is expressed from an active but atypical promoter that possesses an extended −10 element (TGTAATAT) that compensates for the absence of a −35 box. Strengthening the biological significance of these data, we found that the occurrence of an extended −10 promoter box and the absence of a −35 element are two well-conserved features in abrB2 genes from other cyanobacteria. We also show that AbrB2 is an autorepressor that is dispensable to cell growth under standard laboratory conditions. Furthermore, we demonstrate that AbrB2 also represses the hox operon, which encodes the Ni-Fe hydrogenase of biotechnological interest, and that the hox operon is weakly expressed even though it possesses the two sequences resembling canonical −10 and −35 promoter boxes. In both the AbrB2-repressed promoters of the abrB2 gene and the hox operon, we found a repeated DNA motif [TT-(N5)-AAC], which could be involved in AbrB2 repression. Supporting this hypothesis, we found that a TT-to-GG mutation of one of these elements increased the activity of the abrB2 promoter. We think that our abrB2-deleted mutant with increased expression of the hox operon and hydrogenase activity, together with the reporter plasmids we constructed to analyze the abrB2 gene and the hox operon, will serve as useful tools to decipher the function and the regulation of hydrogen production in Synechocystis.
PMCID: PMC3457224  PMID: 22865847
4.  Multidisciplinary Evidences that Synechocystis PCC6803 Exopolysaccharides Operate in Cell Sedimentation and Protection against Salt and Metal Stresses 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55564.
Little is known about the production of exopolysaccharides (EPS) in cyanobacteria, and there are no genetic and physiological evidences that EPS are involved in cell protection against the frequently encountered environmental stresses caused by salt and metals. We studied four presumptive EPS production genes, sll0923, sll1581, slr1875 and sll5052, in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC6803, which produces copious amounts of EPS attached to cells (CPS) and released in the culture medium (RPS) as shown here. We show that sll0923, sll1581, slr1875 and sll5052 are all dispensable to the growth of all corresponding single and double deletion mutants in absence of stress. Furthermore, we report that sll0923, sll1581 and slr1875 unambiguously operate in the production of both CPS and RPS. Both sll1581 and slr1875 are more important than sll0923 for CPS production, whereas the contrary is true for RPS production. We show that the most EPS-depleted mutant, doubly deleted for sll1581 and slr1875, lacks the EPS mantle that surrounds WT cells and sorbs iron in their vicinity. Using this mutant, we demonstrate for the first time that cyanobacterial EPS directly operate in cell protection against NaCl, CoCl2, CdSO4 and Fe-starvation. We believe that our EPS-depleted mutants will be useful tools to investigate the role of EPS in cell-to-cell aggregation, biofilm formation, biomineralization and tolerance to environmental stresses. We also suggest using the fast sedimenting mutants as biotechnological cell factories to facilitate the otherwise expensive harvest of the producer cell biomass and/or its separation from products excreted in the growth media.
PMCID: PMC3566033  PMID: 23405172
5.  A transcriptional-switch model for Slr1738-controlled gene expression in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis 
Protein-DNA interactions play a crucial role in the life of biological organisms in controlling transcription, regulation, as well as DNA recombination and repair. The deep understanding of these processes, which requires the atomic description of the interactions occurring between the proteins and their DNA partners is often limited by the absence of a 3D structure of such complexes.
In this study, using a method combining sequence homology, structural analogy modeling and biochemical data, we first build the 3D structure of the complex between the poorly-characterized PerR-like regulator Slr1738 and its target DNA, which controls the defences against metal and oxidative stresses in Synechocystis. In a second step, we propose an expanded version of the Slr1738-DNA structure, which accommodates the DNA binding of Slr1738 multimers, a feature likely operating in the complex Slr1738-mediated regulation of stress responses. Finally, in agreement with experimental data we present a 3D-structure of the Slr1738-DNA complex resulting from the binding of multimers of the FUR-like regulator onto its target DNA that possesses internal repeats.
Using a combination of different types of data, we build and validate a relevant model of the tridimensional structure of a biologically important protein-DNA complex. Then, based on published observations, we propose more elaborated multimeric models that may be biologically important to understand molecular mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3293774  PMID: 22289274
6.  Characterization of the FtsZ-Interacting Septal Proteins SepF and Ftn6 in the Spherical-Celled Cyanobacterium Synechocystis Strain PCC 6803▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(19):6178-6185.
Assembly of the tubulin-like cytoskeletal protein FtsZ into a ring structure at midcell establishes the location of the nascent division sites in prokaryotes. However, it is not yet known how the assembly and contraction of the Z ring are regulated, especially in cyanobacteria, the environmentally crucial organisms for which only one FtsZ partner protein, ZipN, has been described so far. Here, we characterized SepF and Ftn6, two novel septal proteins, in the spherical-celled strain Synechocystis PCC 6803. Both proteins were found to be indispensable to Synechocystis sp. strain PCC 6803. The depletion of both SepF and Ftn6 resulted in delayed cytokinesis and the generation of giant cells but did not prevent FtsZ polymerization, as shown by the visualization of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged FtsZ polymers. These GFP-tagged Z-ring-like structures often appeared to be abnormal, because these reporter cells respond to the depletion of either SepF or Ftn6 with an increased abundance of total, natural, and GFP-tagged FtsZ proteins. In agreement with their septal localization, we found that both SepF and Ftn6 interact physically with FtsZ. Finally, we showed that SepF, but not Ftn6, stimulates the formation and/or stability of FtsZ polymers in vitro.
PMCID: PMC2747883  PMID: 19648234
7.  Characterization of the Synechocystis Strain PCC 6803 Penicillin-Binding Proteins and Cytokinetic Proteins FtsQ and FtsW and Their Network of Interactions with ZipN▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;191(16):5123-5133.
Because very little is known about cell division in noncylindrical bacteria and cyanobacteria, we investigated 10 putative cytokinetic proteins in the unicellular spherical cyanobacterium Synechocystis strain PCC 6803. Concerning the eight penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs), which define three classes, we found that Synechocystis can survive in the absence of one but not two PBPs of either class A or class C, whereas the unique class B PBP (also termed FtsI) is indispensable. Furthermore, we showed that all three classes of PBPs are required for normal cell size. Similarly, the putative FtsQ and FtsW proteins appeared to be required for viability and normal cell size. We also used a suitable bacterial two-hybrid system to characterize the interaction web among the eight PBPs, FtsQ, and FtsW, as well as ZipN, the crucial FtsZ partner that occurs only in cyanobacteria and plant chloroplasts. We showed that FtsI, FtsQ, and ZipN are self-interacting proteins and that both FtsI and FtsQ interact with class A PBPs, as well as with ZipN. Collectively, these findings indicate that ZipN, in interacting with FtsZ and both FtsI and FtQ, plays a similar role to the Escherichia coli FtsA protein, which is missing in cyanobacteria and chloroplasts.
PMCID: PMC2725598  PMID: 19542290
8.  Cadmium triggers an integrated reprogramming of the metabolism of Synechocystis PCC6803, under the control of the Slr1738 regulator 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:350.
Cadmium is a persistent pollutant that threatens most biological organisms, including cyanobacteria that support a large part of the biosphere. Using a multifaceted approach, we have investigated the global responses to Cd and other relevant stresses (H2O2 and Fe) in the model cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC6803.
We found that cells respond to the Cd stress in a two main temporal phases process. In the "early" phase cells mainly limit Cd entry through the negative and positive regulation of numerous genes operating in metal uptake and export, respectively. As time proceeds, the number of responsive genes increases. In this "massive" phase, Cd downregulates most genes operating in (i) photosynthesis (PS) that normally provides ATP and NADPH; (ii) assimilation of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur that requires ATP and NAD(P)H; and (iii) translation machinery, a major consumer of ATP and nutrients. Simultaneously, many genes are upregulated, such as those involved in Fe acquisition, stress tolerance, and protein degradation (crucial to nutrients recycling). The most striking common effect of Cd and H2O2 is the disturbance of both light tolerance and Fe homeostasis, which appeared to be interdependent. Our results indicate that cells challenged with H2O2 or Cd use different strategies for the same purpose of supplying Fe atoms to Fe-requiring metalloenzymes and the SUF machinery, which synthesizes or repairs Fe-S centers. Cd-stressed cells preferentially breakdown their Fe-rich PS machinery, whereas H2O2-challenged cells preferentially accelerate the intake of Fe atoms from the medium.
We view the responses to Cd as an integrated "Yin Yang" reprogramming of the whole metabolism, we found to be controlled by the Slr1738 regulator. As the Yin process, the ATP- and nutrients-sparing downregulation of anabolism limits the poisoning incorporation of Cd into metalloenzymes. As the compensatory Yang process, the PS breakdown liberates nutrient assimilates for the synthesis of Cd-tolerance proteins, among which we found the Slr0946 arsenate reductase enzyme.
PMCID: PMC2190772  PMID: 17910763

Results 1-8 (8)